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Brave Burnett becomes unified champion

Credit: Pacemaker

By Simon McIntyre

Ryan Burnett produced a gutsy performance to win the WBA Super world title to add to his IBF world title.

Burnett made history in winning the first ever world title unification bout on Irish soil.

The Belfast man wept tears of joy when he was announced as winner by unanimous decision (119-109, 118-110, 116-112) to claim his second world belt in as many fights.

Burnett was brought to hospital as a "precautionary measure" following a gruelling twelve rounds in front of a packed SSE Arena in Belfast.

It's believed he was suffering from headaches during and after the fight.

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Despite the wide unanimous decision, the fight itself seemed much closer.

Kazakhstan's Zhanat Zhakiyanov, trained by former world champion Ricky Hatton, provided Burnett with easily the toughest test of his 18-fight pro career.

The early rounds were hard to score, with "ZZ" dragging Burnett into a war of attrition, stifling the Belfast fighter's normally fluid style.

Zhakiyanov continued to march forward but Burnett was comfortable on the back foot and landed the cleaner and sharper shots.

Credit: Pacemaker

In the fourth, Burnett started to force the Kazakh fighter backwards to the delight of the 7,000-strong crowd.

But the WBA champion wouldn't go away easily, making this a real fight in the middle rounds.

An eye-catching uppercut in the sixth for "ZZ" kept Burnett at bay as the fight entered the second half.

A couple of closely-contested rounds followed with a lot of clinching and inside work being displayed by both fighters in a draining contest.

Before the ninth, Burnett's trainer Adam Booth laid down the gauntlet saying, "You told me you could break him."

The Belfast man responded with his best round of the fight.

He landed multiple clean combinations on Zhakiyanov, extending his advantage on the scorecards and dealing his opponent a bitter blow going into the closing stages.

Credit: Pacemaker

Burnett showed his sublime fitness in the latter rounds, with both men letting it all go in round 12 to the delight of the paying public.

His opposing trainer Ricky Hatton claimed Burnett had fully deserved the win and that he was happy for his former protege.

Promoter Eddie Hearn said Burnett would have Christmas off before returning to Belfast in spring.

Whether that's for Burnett's two world titles or another unification fight, only time will tell.

The Belfast man said he wanted to not only be a world champion, but a great world champion.

On Saturday, he dug deep when it was needed and might have just achieved that greatness he was seeking.